Andrew Marshall is a Norwich celebrity. He is not in Alan Partridge's league, yet, or on a par with Delia "Let's be 'avin you!" Smith, but the 32-year-old's fame stretches far beyond the ring road, where the signposts tell visitors: Norwich, A Nice Town - into the heartland of Norfolk.
Five years ago, 23 friends and fellow members of his golf club in Dereham each bought shares in him, at £500 a time, to fund his ambition of making it to the European Tour. They've long since had their money back, with dividends. He's been on the tour since 2002, finished as high as 90th on the Order of Merit in 2004, and earned more than £500,000 since his investors chipped in.
He even has his own weekly column in the Norwich Evening News. This week's piece, written on the eve of this tournament, carried the headline "I'll put Open horror show to bed". Marshall talked about how he wanted to put his debut in this event, last year, behind him. At St Andrews he shot a first-round 84 on the way to missing the cut.
The article ended with the line: "It just shows what you can do in a short space of time." That was a reference to Sweden's Johan Edfors, who has come on in leaps and bounds this season and won at Loch Lomond a week ago. But in the days since Marshall went to press, his game has gone into orbit, relatively speaking, and his pay-off sentence is applicable to him.
Englishmen have dropped like flies here. There were 29 on Thursday but only 13 made the cut. Among those who failed to buzz was England's best-ranked, David Howell, the world No 10.
Marshall, the world No 359, hassurvived and prospered. In doing so he helped to cull the hopes of 15 rivals. His final putt on Friday night, in the gloaming at 9pm, was a birdie and meant he squeezed into the cut by moving into the top 70 placings. Fifteen players who finished on par had their hopes dashed.
Marshall then braved 18 holes of solitude yesterday as the only man playing by himself. In a weekend field of 71, he teed off alone at 8.20am in the first match of the day. He shot a four-under par 68 to put himself among the best-performing Englishmen on the leaderboard, at five-under.
"It was a nice stroll around," he said, referring to not having to wait for anyone else to play. Of the packed galleries, he added: "I have never experienced anything like it. It was awesome.
"Every shot I hit down the middle of the fairway, everyone starts going wild."
Marshall made six birdies, two on the way out and four on the way back, marred only by bogeys on the 12th and 14th, both holes featuring pin positions tucked tight to the side of the green. He was happy none the less. "Today, I could just do no wrong. Even if I missed the green I was getting applause. People just want to clap. It was sensational."
His best-ever finish was a tie for second place in the Madeira Island Open in 2003, followed by the same at last month's Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. Contesting the final round of The Open is something else, although all he wanted to do yesterday was pick up souvenirs, eat and watch telly.
"I'll go shopping in the tented village after some lunch, and then kick back and watch some golf," he said of his plans after coming off the 18th green.
"Yesterday morning I watched Tiger's round and thought about going home then! But this afternoon I'll just enjoy the golf and hopefully watch my name somewhere on the leaderboard."
A fellow Englishman who had a less comfortable day was Greg Owen, who needed painkillers before the start of his round after struggling with a long-standing back injury on the range. He declared himself fit to play, however, and also shot a 68, to leave him on eight-under ahead of today. The 34-year-old from Mansfield bogeyed the second but birdied the fourth and fifth to be out in 34. He then birdied the 10th and holed a magnificent 60-foot birdie putt on the next.
The worst English round of the day was Paul Casey's 79, which he racked up principally through two triple-bogeys from back-nine bunkers. "I'd talk you through the shots on those holes and describe what happened," he said afterwards, "but there were 14 of them and it would take me all day."
QUOTES OF THE DAY: 'It was a surprise to see a packed gallery at 8.20'
"I had it going on the front nine and then I struggled with the pace of the greens. These greens are getting brown and when I had to get from green parts to brown parts I was a bit tentative." - Sergio Garcia confesses to putting problems during his 65
"I haven't played well for a few years here, so I'm happy with my position. I've done a better job adapting to the conditions and I was really in control of my game." - Jim Furyk puts five successive missed Open cuts behind him
"The crowds were great. It was a surprise to see a packed gallery at the first hole to see me tee off on my own at 8.20am." - Andrew Marshall, playing solo, after his third round of 68
"I was always a starter. Whether I would have finished is another matter. The physios did a good job and luckily the muscles stayed loose and warm." - Greg Owen reveals he suffered back spasms
"That was exciting and will certainly jog my memory when I'm thinking about this place." - John Senden on his hole in one
"I was in the trap up against the lip and it took three whacks to get out. Then I hit my four-iron into the left-hand trap and that left me a long bunker shot. To cap it all, I three-putted for a nice little nine." - Henrik Stenson on his nine at 16
"You just have to make some putts out there because it's hard to get the ball five feet from the hole. You have to make some 15 to 30-footers and I just didn't do it." - Phil Mickelson outlines the difficulties that lurk at HoylakeReuse content